Librarians and LaFon say goodbye


Sophia Turner

Susie Carlson (left) and Cathy Doyle (right) come into the library everyday to assist students and faculty with whatever they may need. After several years of working in the library, the two made the decision to leave it behind and venture into new experiences.

As each day unfolds, the school year inches closer and closer to its end. This year, seniors are not the only ones leaving to take a step towards their next journey; librarians Cathy Doyle and Susie Carlson and Latin teacher Dawn LaFon are also retiring after having each spent numerous years fulfilling a huge part in the White Station community.

Doyle and Carlson began their expedition in education at the University of Memphis, where they both received a librarian’s certification and a master’s degree. After teaching first grade and being a librarian for 30 years at White Station Elementary, Doyle decided to pursue a career at the high school level.

“I just heard when I was at the elementary school [that] there was an opening [at White Station High],” Doyle said. “My kids were here, so I just thought I might like high school, and I applied here, and I got it.”

While Doyle has worked in the library for the past 18 years, Carlson only joined her eight years ago. Carlson also held other jobs in education before becoming a librarian, but found herself in a new world.

“My first year [at White Station] I was a special education teacher, and it was also a big learning curve because the environment was larger; it had a lot of students, a lot of families and I collaborated with a lot of teachers,” Carlson said.

Previously, Carlson taught at a residential center, a psychiatric unit and a detention center. After befriending Doyle in the library, Carlson decided the library would be the next step of her journey.

“I started noticing that Ms. Doyle was happy most of the time and very calm, and I thought, ‘I want to be one of those, I want to do what she does,’” Carlson said. “She’s [been] my mentor.”

Carlson and Doyle’s mutual decision to retire was merely a coincidence but has made it easier for their replacements to transition into the upcoming school year. Carlson plans to travel with her family to national parks, and similarly, Doyle aims to focus on her family and move closer to them.

“I just decided it was time to look at other things,” Carlson said. “I’ve been doing this a long, long, time, and I’m ready to go to the national parks and head west a little bit. I’m going to head to New Mexico first [for] the Hot Air Balloon Festival.”

One floor above the library, LaFon has inspired her Latin students every day to be great leaders for the past 34 years. After initially teaching Latin at Kingsbury High for a few years, LaFon decided to live out the rest of her teaching days at White Station High.

“I have always said White Station is a true triumph of the human spirit because we have always had exceptionally good people here that have worked hard and have done everything they could to help people here, and that has never changed,” LaFon said. “It’s been the way it was since the day I walked in. It’s still that way today.”

Her desire to be a Latin teacher stemmed from her mother and grandmother at an early age. She then went on to the University of Memphis and the University of Washington to fulfill this wish.

“My mother told me … that I had to take a year of Latin. That if I really didn’t like it, I could switch, but that I had to take one year of Latin. That it would help me in anything that I wanted to do,” LaFon said. “My grandmother told me I could do anything I wanted to do in this life, but that she had to know that I would always have a way to earn my living, and that the world was always going to need teachers, so I had to get a teacher’s certificate.”

Throughout her years in education, LaFon has accomplished several achievements. Obtaining a position on the National Committee for Advanced Placement (AP) Latin and being the president of the Tennessee Foreign Language Teachers Association, her influence has reached across the nation.

“I have friends from all over the country from my work on the AP committee, and I can tell you, I’ve put this school up against any other school in the country,” LaFon said.

During her first year at White Station, LaFon received a scholarship from the Rockefeller Foundation to travel to Pompeii, Paris, New York and Malibu for her research on Pompeii and its effect on furniture design. Reaching the end of her teaching career, LaFon plans to resume her days of adventure.

“I’m not using the word retirement,” LaFon said. “I’m using the word ‘next adventures’.The first adventure is I have this idea of starting a … garden garum. I’ve had a novel in mind [for] a long time about a Latin teacher who lives in an older neighborhood … solving crimes …  so hopefully, I will write it … and that will put Latin out there to a wider audience so that more people will realize the importance and how much it really helps you.”

Together, LaFon, Doyle and Carlson have built a strong foundation at White Station, each considered a pillar of the school by many. Each one of them expresses their admiration for the faculty and students’ excellence and that the people they are surrounded by will be one of the things they will miss the most.

“I will miss the students the most,” LaFon said. “I don’t know of anyone who has enjoyed their job more than I have enjoyed my job of teaching Latin, and it’s always been because of the students. I’ve always loved them. My favorite Latin phrase is ‘docendo disceri’ and [it] means “one learns by teaching.””